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V/A - You Will Never Hear From Us Again

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Artist: V/A

Album: You Will Never Hear From Us Again

Label: Pehr

Review date: Mar. 31, 2002

On their new compilation, You Will Never Hear From Us Again, LA's underappreciated Pehr Records has assembled an stunning collection of songs by artists from around the world. Each band was asked to write a musical interpretation of the experience of death, and they do this well, offering instrumental dirges that are beautiful, haunting and moving. The record is easily the best compilation of its kind to come out last year, were it not for the release of a few incredible hip hop compilations from Quannum and Sound|Ink, it would easily be the best compilation of the year.

The most notable aspect of the record is its fluidity and its cohesive musical and emotional tone, where each contributor manages to sound unique and disparate and still finds a way to fit into the larger framework of the album as a whole. This balance seems to be the piece that so few compilations manage to nail, and yet it is the one most often crucial to the listener.

The album begins with an elegy titled "Californian" by Timonium, the flagship band on Pehr's roster. The song opens, as many of the cuts do, with warm, ambient tones and ethereal textures. The bass comes in and serves as the anchor to the song, and gently loping guitars amble and ring until a beautiful song results. The Italian band Giardini di Miro offers the second threnody on the record, "Master of Victories" which is a remarkable song that shines and glows with sorrow. Slide guitars mourn to Rhodes pianos and the stringed instruments offer their lament.

Delorean contriubtes the next track, called "American Lakes Poetry," which breaks free from the dream-state sparked by the previous two songs and begins a slow buildup that many of the bands on the record explore. These interpretations view death as more of an intense transition than a sad passage, and the next track, "New Longevity" by The Rum Diary mines the territory of sonic freefall fuzz better than any other moment on the album. Mainframe Theory's "I Shall Come Forth as Gold" finds precise circular guitar lines mated with unique drum loops, and Bozart's "Frost" displays two guitars snaking back and forth, intertwining melody with tranquillity. Running for Passenger's track, "Quarterly," is an elliptical requiem relying on piano loops and jazzy drums, with xylophone and chiming guitars added to good effect. Eucalyptus' "Nooks and Crannies" offers lulling waves of Farfisa organ and diffuse guitars before working itself into a majestic rock bridge and exiting in a wave of xylophones. The final song, "Nimbostratus Zacket" by Crownery is a synthesized symphony of mesmerizing loops assembled until the composition occupies several sonic layers.

The record does have a few minor flaws and missteps. The most puzzling is the recording quality on 12twelve's track "News May Be Bad Or Good," which is digitally compressed like a poor MP3. The song is good, but it's hard to listen to when compared with the nearly flawless sound of most of the others. The compilation will also be a challenge to many listeners who expect their records to come to them because the nature of the music is very hypnotic, restrained and subtle in most places. It can have a narcotic effect on the listener, so one might want to have a bottle of codeine-based cough syrup handy before listening to the record. For many music geeks, this should not be a problem. While the bands on this record are heavily influenced by the Quebec bands on Constellation and Alien 8 Records, and by the quiet/loud blueprint developed by Slint and perfected by Mogwai, the songs on You Will Never Hear From Us Again hold their own. The two schools of death on the record-the dreamlike elegies and the corrosive cacaphonies-manage to find a good equilibrium between meditative and cathartic, and the musicians create melodies full of glory and grace. In a culture that has such a difficult time coming to terms with death, it's a relief to see an interpretation that suggests that death can be as beautiful as it is tragic.

By Andy Cockle

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